Q&A with a Reader
Hi Billy and Akaisha:
Thank you both so much for sharing your wonderful experiences and wisdom about early financial independence and retirement in your fantastic newsletter and guidebooks! I thoroughly enjoyed the recent article on your newsletter about Akaisha’s early adventures riding on a motorcycle to Alaska and across the U.S.
I was wondering if you have ever written an in-depth article about your time traveling across North America together in a Fifth-Wheel RV.
I know many of your readers, including myself, are considering an RV to replace the “Bricks and Mortar” conventional home to allow for a more mobile retirement adventure. In contrast to an RV retirement route, however, I also see the strong appeal of your recent comments on pursuing the lowest infrastructure in retirement.
I realize that everyone’s thoughts on retirement will differ, but I am truly curious as to your personal thoughts, experiences, advice, pros/cons, costs vs. benefits, and so forth, regarding an early retirement involving an RV for a traveling home compared to your current far lighter, more nimble, and zero maintenance & repair choice.
Thank you for your enthusiastic comments regarding our newsletter and website. We appreciate it!
In regards to your question about living the RV life in retirement, we would say the following:
It is a GREAT life.
The people you will meet on the road and in the RV parks are friendly, open, and are of a wide variety of personalities, and income brackets.
We would suggest that you start out purchasing a used RV – search Craigslist (especially in RV retirement locations like Arizona, Southern California, New Mexico, Florida, etc.) There is no reason to purchase new and when you buy used you will literally save yourselves thousands and thousands of dollars. If you purchase in a state with no sales tax, then you save again.
We chose to have a tow vehicle (a used 1 Ton pick up) and a separate 5th wheel. In this way, there was only one motor to worry about, and if your truck or tow vehicle is in the shop, you still have a place to live. We know of people who chose a Class A RV, with the slide outs, washer and dryer and so on (lots of motors) … and if anything needs repair, then they are in a hotel (spending money) until the repair is done. If the new RV is still under warranty, then one must go to special repair places and parts need to be ordered, and again… one is in the hotel without the means to cook meals or the convenience of your home.
One couple we know just started out on a two month trip, with 1 month of food purchased and stored and then needed repairs to their Class A. They couldn’t use the food in the freezer and refrigerator since they had to wait so long for the repairs to be done. I think they gave the food away
It’s something to think about. I know those slide outs are very attractive, but when they don’t work… it’s a hassle.
Also, there are size limitations in some National Parks so if you have a unit that is too long, you have to forego seeing that park. Do a bit of research so you know what you are looking for in an RV – size, price, age, slide outs or not, washing machines or not, and so on. Remember, the heavier your RV, the less miles per gallon you will get with your fuel.
Also, we recommend to travel slowly. There really isn’t a reason to drive hundreds and hundreds of miles in a day (the price of fuel will add to your costs) then stay a night or two somewhere, and then drive hundreds of miles again 3 days later – only to stay a night or two somewhere else.
We “lived the life.” That means we often bought a month’s rent at a time (a discount is often available) in places that allowed us to stay a month. (some only allow you to stay a week.) Then sometimes we would stay in a campground for a week… travel 7-10 miles down the coastline, and stay in another park for a week.
We would mix upscale park sites in between staying in BLM dry camps (Bureau of Land Management). These campsites, because they are dry camping and you are not hooked up to electricity or water are cheaper. Sometimes we stayed in Wal*Mart parking lots or even in a friend’s driveway. The slower you travel, the more you save on fuel and rental prices for your site.
In the days that we were RVing, there was no internet or WiFi, but today there is. So I would research how to get hooked up to the internet so that you have communication — Email, Skype, Facetime, paying bills, banking/managing your finances and so on. You can also stream TV or movies these days. Research whether or not you want a generator in case of power failure and whether or not you want some sort of solar paneling to help with utility costs.
You can also consider doing Workampers which will save you money on site rental and you might even be able to make some money.
There are lots of sites to give you current information such as Good Sam Club, Woodall’s Campground directory, and the RV forums and park reviews. (Check out our Travel Housing Page.) Also, you will probably need an online mailbox system to monitor and retrieve your mail. We use Traveling Mailbox. This article explains how it works.
As an alternative lifestyle, you might also consider a combination of house sitting and various hotel and apartment rentals. This is also a terrific way to travel and manage the housing cost portion of your retirement.
House sitting can be “free” housing, and sometimes the owners will pay you for watching their home and pets. Apartments and hotels will give you a discount for a month’s stay. In this way you have no particular cash outlay (like for an RV and tow vehicle or for a snowbird location) but you can still travel all over the world.
We have a small park model in Arizona, and if you have not read this article on Worry Free Housing, I would recommend that you do so. It explains the benefits of having such a home. In this way, you could stay in one favored location for 6 months of the year, and perhaps house sit for the other 6 months.
In general, housing options these days for a retired couple are much broader than ever. We would suggest that you not limit yourself and try several different styles until you find one that suits you best. Enjoy the journey of discovery.
I hope this answers your questions and if you have any other ones, feel free to write and let us know. We’d be happy to answer them.
Sending our best regards,
Akaisha and Billy